Pornography Addiction

Pornography addiction is a serious behavioral addiction that can hurt the individual struggling with it and their loved ones—particularly their romantic partners. Over time, viewing pornography can damage your self-esteem and negatively impact your relationship with your partner or spouse.

However, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to seek help if you think you have a problem with porn. Many options are available to help you tackle an addiction to pornography so that you can get back to a healthy state of mind.

Porn Addiction is a Behavioral Addiction

Pornography addiction is a type of behavioral addiction. Behavioral addiction is an addiction to a specific behavior or activity. Someone with a behavioral addiction will continue engaging in the addictive behavior regardless of its negative impact. For instance, someone with an addiction to porn will keep viewing it even after it has caused problems in their daily life.

Behavioral addictions are similar to alcohol or drug addiction because they affect the same part of the brain as drug or alcohol abuse. Over time, a person can become addicted to a specific behavior (i.e., use of porn) due to the dopamine their brain releases while engaging in this activity.

While pornography addiction doesn’t have the same adverse health results as substance use disorder, such as overdose or death, it can still cause significant consequences to a person’s mental health and well-being.

Some examples of other behavioral addictions include:

  • Pornography
  • Sex
  • Exercise
  • Video games
  • Social media
  • Shopping
  • Gambling
  • Food

What Is Porn Addiction?

Pornography addiction is a compulsive desire to consume pornography through

sexual images, videos, erotic novels, or pornographic artwork despite negative consequences. Individuals with a porn addiction may experience intense cravings and the urge to view more.

Whether a person chooses to view pornography is generally considered a personal choice. However, when your use of pornography starts negatively affecting your life, it’s time to make a change.

How Does Pornography Addiction Occur?

Pornography addiction can happen to anyone. Like any behavioral addiction, porn addiction occurs due to overusing certain brain chemicals.

While viewing porn, brain activity in the reward center increases, releasing dopamine—the brain’s “feel good” chemical. This dopamine rush feels good to our brains, and we often seek out that same behavior to get that same positive sensation. In this case, a person getting a rush of dopamine from viewing pornography might continue to seek out porn to feel those sensations.

However, over time the brain adapts, and it takes more and more of the same behavior to achieve the same effect. A person can become dependent on porn to feel sexual satisfaction. Eventually, this dependency can lead to pornography addiction.

Warning Signs of Porn Addiction

While using pornography doesn’t automatically mean an addiction will develop, there are some warning signs that your pornography usage might be becoming problematic.

Below are some potential warning signs of porn addiction:

  • A less satisfying sex life
  • Trying to stop using porn but can’t
  • The feeling of shame after viewing porn but continuing to do so
  • Engaging in risky behavior to view porn
  • Experiencing relationship issues as a result of pornography
  • Allowing porn to get in the way of other responsibilities
  • Needing to view more and more porn to reach the desired effect
  • “Graduating” to more extreme forms of pornography while masturbating
  • Using pornography as a way to cope with emotional or mental health issues
  • Getting into financial trouble as a result of spending money on pornography
  • Constantly thinking about pornography

Negative Consequences of Porn Addiction

Like other addictions, pornography addiction can cause issues for the addict and their loved ones (typically their romantic partners).

The American Psychological Association points out that viewing pornography can often be detrimental to the sexual health of a relationship. For instance, research shows that some men who use pornography report lower levels of sexual activity in their real-life relationships.

For those in a committed relationship, dealing with a porn addiction can lead to a wide variety of issues, including:

  • Neglecting their partner
  • Sexual dysfunction unless using pornography
  • Feelings of betrayal by the partner/spouse of the person with the addiction
  • Loss of trust in their relationships
  • Damaged self-esteem in the partner/spouse
  • Infidelity

Even for those who are not in a committed relationship, someone suffering from a porn addiction might still deal with many negative consequences such as:

  • Isolation
  • Neglecting other areas of their lives such as work or school
  • Distorted perceptions about sex and relationships
  • Negative feelings about themselves
  • Development of sexual addiction
  • Low self-esteem or issues with body image

Pornography Addiction Statistics

While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not recognize porn addiction as an official mental health condition, the World Health Organization added compulsive sexual behavior to their list of mental health disorders in 2018.

Below are some statistics about  porn addiction:

  • Roughly 200,000 Americans are addicted to porn.
  • A 2019 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that 3-6% of people suffer from some form of hypersexual disorder (including porn addiction).
  • In 2019, the well-known pornography website PornHub received 115 million daily visits.
  • A 2002 Kinsey Institute survey found that 9% of people who viewed porn were unsuccessful when trying to stop.
  • According to a 2013 Forbes article, 25% of adults have admitted to looking at porn on their work computers.
  • About 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related.

Who’s at Risk for a Porn Addiction

While not everyone that watches porn will develop a porn addiction, some people may find themselves at a greater risk than others.

Someone prone to or currently suffering from another addiction is more likely to develop a porn addiction. Individuals who suffer from a mental health condition are also at a greater risk of developing an addiction to pornography.

Studies have also shown that certain biological factors, such as changes in brain chemistry, can also increase the risk of porn addiction.

Porn and Hypersexual Behavior

Pornography addiction falls under a broader category known as hypersexual disorder. Hypersexual disorder, also known as compulsive sexual behavior, refers to any type of repeated behavior or preoccupation that is sexual and difficult to control, can negatively affect your life, and can cause distress.

Some common examples of hypersexual behavior, in addition to porn addiction, include:

  • Excessive masturbation
  • Often engaging in cybersex or telephone sex
  • Sex addiction
  • Paying for sex
  • Frequenting strip club visits
  • Having multiple sexual partners at once

It is important to remember that while porn addiction and sex addiction fall under the same umbrella of hypersexual disorder, they are not the same thing.

Accessibility of Pornography

Pornography comes in many formats, including movies, videos, real-life pictures, artwork, and erotic novels. It is also easily accessible due to the internet.

Some forms of pornography require purchasing. Adult “sex shops” and other retail stores sell pornographic content. People can also make pornographic purchases online through website subscriptions or memberships.

However, many websites offer free pornographic content, which can be problematic for a few reasons. For one, underage people can access porn sites from their computers or smartphones. While porn websites include a disclaimer that the sites are only for individuals 18 and up, a curious teen can easily bypass this screen and access material that isn’t age-appropriate.

A 2020 study found that 25% of young adults say they watch porn as their primary source of sex education, which poses another problem. By learning about sex from porn, teens and young adults will likely develop a skewed perspective of how sex should be. Porn can also warp their self-esteem by providing an unrealistic representation of the human body.

Porn Addiction Assessment

Since viewing pornography is a private matter, it might be difficult for someone to confide in friends or loved ones if they think they might have a problem with porn. However, someone worried about their viewing habits can start with a self-assessment test to examine their behavior.

One valuable tool that can help determine if you are suffering from porn addiction is the Porn Addiction Test. This test is based on the six symptoms of addiction and is utilized much like drug and alcohol addiction screening tests.

Treatment for Porn Addiction

If you have taken the test and it indicates that you are suffering from porn addiction, or you simply feel that your pornographic consumption has gotten out of hand, it is time to take steps toward fixing the problem.

There are several options for those seeking treatment for porn addiction, including rehab, psychotherapy, medication, and counseling. These options vary based on the severity of the addiction and a person’s unique situation.

For those who do not seek professional treatment or want to treat themselves first before seeking professional help, there are many things you can do on your own.

Some helpful home remedy tools include:

  • Delete all downloaded porn and all bookmarks on all devices
  • Throw away any hard copies of pornography
  • Ask a trusted friend, family member, spouse, or loved one to install anti-porn software on all electronic devices and hide the password from you
  • Confide in someone who you can trust that who will hold you accountable
  • Keep a journal to track your progress and take notes
  • Chose another activity that you can do when the urge to watch porn hits
  • Identify possible triggers and try to avoid them
  • Remind yourself of the negative consequences of watching porn when the urge comes up

Rehab Programs for Porn Addiction

For those seeking professional help, or if you tried home remedies that didn’t work, one option is to enter an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. These programs are similar to what you would enroll in for a substance abuse problem.

As with most addiction rehab programs, porn addiction rehab uses various therapies, including group and individual counseling.

Porn Addiction Therapy

While rehab programs provide therapy, you don’t have to go to rehab to see a therapist about your porn addiction. Psychotherapy is the most popular form of psychiatry used by therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals for treating porn addiction.

Psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), helps identify the triggers that led to the development of the addiction. Psychotherapy can also help in learning healthy and more productive ways to deal with these triggers in the future.

Couples counseling can be a vital tool in recovery for individuals suffering from a porn addiction that has also resulted in problems with their romantic partner.

Couples counseling provides a safe space for you and your partner to discuss how your porn addiction has affected your relationship. It can also help rebuild lost trust between you.

Medication

In some instances, a person might turn to porn as a way to cope with mental health struggles like stress or anxiety. In those situations, a therapist might prescribe medication to help with the mental health condition that might have contributed to the porn addiction.

Some medications that are designed to help control brain chemicals and can be effective while treating porn addiction include:

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antidepressants
  • Naltrexone
  • Anti-androgens

Support Groups for Porn Addiction

Much like support groups are available for those battling other addictions such as drugs, alcohol, and gambling, there are also support groups for those suffering from pornography addiction.

Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment to work through your porn addiction with others struggling with the same issue. Not only can support groups offer encouragement and accountability, but they can also help improve your overall mindset and emotional well-being.

One of the largest support groups for those dealing with porn addiction is the Sex and Pornography Addiction Support Group section on the DailyStrength website.

You can also ask your doctor or therapist to recommend any support groups that might take place in your area.

Spouses and Partners of Someone with a Porn Addiction

The range of emotions can be expansive for the spouse or partner of a person suffering from porn addiction. They might feel sad or even ashamed that their partner has such an obsession with pornography. In some cases, they might even feel as though they have been cheated on.

If you are the spouse or partner of someone suffering from porn addiction, there are tools available to get the help you need. Talking to a professional can be a healthy way to work through some of your emotions. You can also learn strategies to speak with your partner about their porn issue.

Additionally, there are support groups available specifically for those who are the spouse or partner of a porn addict. A group of women started the Hope and Healing website for spouses of pornography addicts. They chronicle their journeys as porn addicts’ wives and offer advice and comfort for others in similar situations.

Get Help for Your Problem with Pornography

While there is nothing wrong with watching pornography, it is important to be conscious of the effect viewing pornography might have on yourself and those around you. If you find that watching pornography has hurt your life, it might be time to stop and seek help.

Call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online program locator to find faith-based addiction treatment options in your area.

FAQs about Porn Addiction

How is pornography addiction treated?

Porn addiction can be treated using various methods, including home remedies, inpatient or outpatient rehab, therapy, medication, and support groups.

What percentage of people who visit porn sites are addicted?

Anywhere from 3-6% of all people who visit a porn website are addicted to porn.

What is the definition of pornography addiction?

Someone suffering from pornography addiction is so emotionally dependent on pornography that it interferes with their ability to function or go about everyday life.

How is pornography defined?

Pornography is a term used to describe any material that is erotic, including pictures, videos, artwork, and writing. 

What are the possible effects of pornography addiction?

Someone suffering from pornography addiction might experience a less satisfying sex life, increased agitation, problems with their spouse or partner, or financial problems resulting from their addiction, amongst other issues.

Reviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Addiction Guide and ensures the quality of our website’s content and messaging.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

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